NASA Engineers Take Pumpkin Carving to The Next Level

NASA engineers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory don't hold back when competing in the annual pumpkin carving contest.

NASA Engineers Take Pumpkin Carving to The Next Level
2017's first place winner. NASA/JPL

Get a bunch of NASA scientists together and then engage them in a little pumpkin carving contest, and you can only imagine what it will yield. 

Well, wonder no more. In celebration of Halloween, which is less than a week away, we took a look back at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California's annual pumpkin carving contests.

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JPL engineers have been at it for seven years

In its seventh year, NASA scientists and engineers take a break from building robots to explore outer space and get busy carving. While the designs may not be as spooky as you would expect, they sure are awe-inspiring and probably too hard for most to even contemplate let alone mimic. 

First out of the gate is the 2017 third-place winner engineered by Mike Meacham and his team. Not one to back down to a challenge, he and his team won thanks to a Frankenstein theme gourd that could hoover in mid-air supported by a mini parachute and a blower. Not too much of a stretch for Meacham given he works on the entry, descent, and landing of the Mars 2020 rover

Another standout from the years of engineers combating each other for pumpkin carving supremacy was the spinning pumpkin carousel that JPL engineers created for the 2016 contest. At the base sat a large pumpkin decorated with ghosts, ghouls, and lights and spinning above are several tiny pumpkins held on by string. 

Carousel made out of pumpkins
JPL engineers spinning pumpkin carousel. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

Engineers don't take the competition lightly 

Other winners included a celestial pirate ship pumpkin that sailed past Jupiter on an ocean that was made of dry ice and a pumpkin carved into a UFO caught in the act of beaming up a miniature cow.

The engineers only have one hour to complete their design so you can imagine a lot of time and planning goes into the efforts. According to NASA, Iona Brockie, an engineer on the Mars 2020 rover and her team, who were behind 2017's first-place winning pirate ship pumpkin, planned out the hour ling contest down to five-minute intervals. 

"Everyone gets so excited about this competition that has no prize other than bragging rights," said Brockie in a NASA piece highlighting the contests. "It's fun to see everybody bring the same kind of crazy energy that they do to making the flight projects to something as simple as a pumpkin carving contest." 

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